The lack of transparency in EU antitrust proceedings as well as the European Commission's extraordinary powers in such proceedings have been the targets of much criticism in recent years. In an attempt to address those concerns, the Commission has now launched what appears to be a reform process of its best practices in antitrust proceedings. In the first step of this process, three so-called "guidance documents" have been published on the way in which the Directorate General for Competition handles antitrust proceedings. These guidance documents seek to clarify the process for parties subject to antitrust investigations and to bring more transparency to that process. The guidance papers published by the European Commission include:
Best Practices for Antitrust Proceedings, in which the Commission guarantees early access to complaints, publication of decisions rejecting complaints and offers an opportunity for private companies to engage in frank and open discussions with DG Competition at specific stages of the antitrust case (“state of play” meetings).
Guidance on the Role of the Hearing Officers, which emphasises that parties subject to antitrust proceedings have a right to be heard by independent Hearing Officers, as well as explaining the reporting obligations and the advisory role of Hearing Officers.
Best Practices for the Submission of Economic Evidence in antitrust and merger proceedings, which specify the criteria that should be fulfilled when submitting economic evidence.
Although the Commission is already applying the best practices described in the guidance documents, it has announced that is it prepared to adjust them further and has invited companies and interested individuals to provide their views. In cooperation with our clients, McDermott Will & Emery will be participating in this process and submitting a position paper to the European Commission before the consultation deadline on 3 March 2010. Companies that are interested in participating in the debate and providing input to McDermott's paper can contact the McDermott lawyers listed on the right.